Total Control, Myth and Reality
“Tweak, I have a problem, can you help?”
“Umm maybe, I’ll try”
“She left me, Tweak, how do i get her back? (sobs)
Recently there was a knock on the door of the TweakLab. It was one of our members, Master Control. We’ll just call him Control for short. ‘Cause I like to save as much time typing as possible. No matter how old or young you are, there is less time than you think. Why waste it typing? Believe me, I would not if I didn’t have a story to tell.
You see, Master Control has a serious problem. It’s on the order of life or death for his music. You can dig that, right? Stay with me now, yes, we are going out there. OK, it has been said that people that get seriously involved in recording studios tend to have a strong need to control things. That’s right, as one’s rig grows, our need for control becomes more evident, and for many of us, it becomes an obsession in the purest form. Lets put it on the operating table and dissect it, analyse and quantify it like the true control freaks we are. We know we need to control this controlling tendency itself if we want to see the Goddess of Inspiration again .
Who is this this Goddess? Sigh, Read on. It always starts out simple enough. You simply want to make and record some music. You learn to play (control) a musical instrument and manage to make it sound halfway decent. You get a tape recorder and make a song. As you play it back over and over, a small voice starts speaking to you, hey, if you could just add bass and drums, “You’d sound like a band!”. There she is in all her glory, the beautiful Lady of Our Inspiration just winked at you. She holds the key to the realization of your most beautiful music. Ah, the key, dangling from her necklace, mesmerizing your eyes into hypnotic fixation. When she winks and smiles suddenly you think you are hearing bits of thousands of melodies, which can all be turned into a thousand pieces of musical art. That is what has awakened your need –to control.
So you buy a multi-track recorder and a synth so you can add drums, bass, strings, pianos and other cool stuff. Each of these instruments has a learning curve, a set of knowledges you need to know to get them to sound right. The trouble being, however, that you are at the bottom of this learning curve. But there is hope, The Goddess whispers, in the form of a MIDI/Audio music production system, yes, a sequencer. You follow, and your ability to Control has just taken a quantum leap. You can control the notes, the timing, their length, loudness and can move them around on a grid like bricks for a house. The Goddess smiles. Yet under the surface Control has had to learn the language of MIDI and sequencers, figure out elaborate chains of inputs and outputs of not only the physical cables connecting your gear but the hundreds of virtual pathways for your signal in the software domain. If it hasn’t happened already, your psyche splits in two, between your artistic side, which simply wants to create beauty and art, and your controlling side, deeply immersed in the intricacies of your expanding virtual world of wires and connections, data formats and bit depths, equalization curves and compressor settings.
But its all cool, she says, because you are growing. Now if you could just get things to sound more professional, she says, smiling coyly, rolling the Key around in her hand, you might get somehere with her. She puts the key to her lips, kisses it softly and whispers “You do want me don’t you?”
Master Control broods. Yes, I need to control effects and you add them to the arsenal of my tweakage. Yea, reverb, decay times, early reflections, damping, liveliness, delay, feedback, cross modulation, busses, sends, returns, plugins, VST, VST2,3, CPU load, but don’t add too much! It has to be so you barely know its there. Months later it dawns on you you have invested in a steep learning curve to allow you to produce a shade and shadow that people only recognize subliminally. Yet when you sit back and listen you hear the improvement. Next to you, the Goddess whispers in your ear “You make me feel sooo beautiful”. Then she squeezes your arm tenderly “You want to go all the way, don’t you?”
Of course you do. She has you hooked. Mixer automation, muses Control, might do the trick. Ah there is nothing like a good mix to bring out the potential of a piece of music. Master Control now immerses himself in a crash course in controller codes, for all his synthesizers so now every parameter can be controlled directly from the computer screen and recorded and edited with lines and curves. Samplers and more synths and a learning curve for each takes our hero into oscillators, envelopes, filters, file slicers and mappers. And libraries, those used by the rich and famous appear until every instrument in the world is now 5 mouse clicks away. The a library for the libraries and a controller surface for multitude of controls. Multitude? Hah, now there are millions, yes millions! of controls available. Master Control grimaces in fear, shuts himself off in a room with no windows are learns the mysterious formulae for making a pitch shifter sound natural, for bringing up perceived loudness without increasing level, making the kick not fight with the bass, for making a song shimmer, shine and pump.
But the Goddess is not smiling. In fact, you took so long learning the last 20 learning curves you forgot to pay attention to her. “Its not about control!“, she cries. “Its not about you, don’t you get it!, Its all about Me!” “Just wait a minute, chickie, shouts Control” I have to upgrade my preamps, converters, clock, and room sonics and then we can spend some time together again. Control researches a month and finally wires it all up. “It’s complete”, he shouts out. Now I can make music! Goddess, babe, where are ya? But no one answers. The Goddess is not to be found.
Days and nights pass till Master Control, infuriated with the absence of the Goddess, knocks on my door.
“So where is she Tweak?! She’s not here now, is she”? Tweak looks down, “uh well…, i’m kinda busy you know, the forums and all, maybe you can come back… No! Master Control barges past Tweak’s door and his eyes dart furtively in all directions like an addict looking for a fix. There, in a corner of the TweakLab the Goddess is smiling, sprawled on top of the empty boxes of Tweak’s new preamps, giggling and toying with the key to the TweakLab.
To be continued~~
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